Posts Tagged ‘England’


Arsenal fans – Do you care whether England win tonight?

By Stefano on March 26th, 2013

Well, possibly not if you aren’t English, but if you are lucky enough to be have been born or live in this wonderful country how are you feeling about tonight’s crucial game with Montenegro.

Is it a must watch because you want to cheer the team onto World Cup qualification?

Or is a must watch because you want to get a really close look at Arsenal’s number one summer striking target Stevan Jovetic?

Over the past few days I have read several Arsenal bloggers who have nothing but distaste for the international games, they see them as an unwelcome side shown that detracts from the real business of the Premiership and Champions League. Some even suggest that we would be better off without internationals.

So what do you think?

Personally I am rather torn. On one level I can sympathise with English men and women who hate international football. Over the years we have seen a generation after generation of England mega stars underachieve in the international game. While rival countries always seem to pull a top performance or two out of the bag (well, at least once every eight years) England invariably seem to stumble though competitions before finally succumbing in rather predictable penalty shoot outs.

England will never ever challenge for anything – even though given the quality of the players in the team they really should. Arsenal might not have won a trophy for eight years now but, until this season anyhow, the team was always in the mix for them.

Then there are issues with the current crop of England internationals. Most Gunners have little love for the older England players – namely Rio Ferdiand, Frank Lampard, John Terry and especially Ashley Cole, and as for the youngsters – who really cares about them? Some come across as being uninterested in wearing an England short and are just going through the motions before they get back to the serious business of club football, utterly oblivious to how much the national game means to some people.

I also wonder if many of the fans that are most passionate about England are supporters of smaller clubs. While the football they see on a weekly basis isn’t that great with, England they get to support a team with some real class – well sometimes anyhow. Someone once likened it to the club team being their wife while England are their bit on the side – more glamorous, exciting and unpredictable. I am not sure I approve of the analogy, but I kind of know what they meant by it.

However I also remember the elation of the two tournaments where England made the semi final in 1990 and 1996. In particular the 90 World Cup was an intoxicating occasion packed with excitement, drama and wonderful, very personal stories. It helped that the players were very likeable too. And as for 1996, from the penalty redemption of Stuart Pearce through to the Gazza inspired destruction of the Scots, it was a wonderful roller coaster ride. If you weren’t around remember how great you felt during The Olympics and times that by ten. The country was having an amazing party.

The Olympics has shown that this country can do a spot of patriotism and play nicely at the same time, so wouldn’t it be great if the England football team could inspire the same feelings?

So I am hoping for a serious demolition of Montenegro tonight. And I don’t care who plays brilliantly and whether they play for United, City or even the Spuds. And if Robin Van Persie wants to pick up an injury while playing for Holland – just like he used to in the old days – well that’s fine by me too.

Anyhow- what do you think?


Why history will be kind to Liverpool and England’s boy wonder Michael Owen

By Stefano on March 21st, 2013

Simon Poulter, of What Would David Bowie Do? fame -puts the case for the England striker

In much of the world, we’ve become quite used to the commonly employed calendar system. We know that this is 2013 AD, and at some point in time there was a year 1AD.

Before that, we had the BC era, which goes back to, well, whenever somebody first named the years in decreasing numbers until you got to 1BC, skipping 0, clearly, because that would have meant having 0BD/AD as a year, which would have sounded like a blood group.

Fans of the England football team, however, follow a similar system to the Jewish calendar, ignoring conventional chronology. Orthodox followers of English football believe the modern era began in 1966. And it’s been downhill ever since.

1966 should have heralded a glorious new dawn, but it darkened pretty quickly. By 1972, in fact, when West Germany wrought revenge for the Wembley brouhaha involving a Russian linesman, and ejected England – not for the first time, either – from the European Championships that year. Worse was to come with failure to qualify at all for the 1974 World Cup, and again in 1978 when we all became honorary Scots, And so on, and so on, and so on.

Argentina and all that…

So excuse the miracle-starved among us for thinking there was a new Messiah abroad when, in 1998, a young boy danced through the Argentinian defence at the French-hosted World Cup match to score a wonder goal.

The boy was Michael Owen: born in Chester on December 14, 1979, and who this week announced his intention to retire at the end of this season. At the age of 11, he joined Liverpool as a schoolboy player, turning professional on his 17th birthday. By this stage there was already plenty of buzz about him. Was he The One? On his first-team debut for Liverpool, Owen scored against Wimbledon, setting the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a nation alive with his arrival.

And then came 30 June 1998. In Saint-Étienne (the French town, not the Sarah Cracknell-fronted indy electro darlings). Aged just 18, he pulled off the goal that had us all convinced he was The One. Collecting a pass from David Beckham, Owen set off on a winding run through the Argentina defence, snaking through it like a raging, coursing river, before letting fly just outside the penalty box, with the ball whistling past goalkeeper Carlos Roa.

While Beckham would get sent off just after half-time for his petulant kickout at the odious Gabriel Batistuta, and the game would end ingloriously on penalties (with Argentina progressing to the quarter-finals), that one goal would be burned in our memories as the start of something new.

The following season’s home Chelsea league fixture against Liverpool was a must-attend. We all wanted to see the wunderkind who’d lifted our hopes that summer.

For Liverpool, Owen would deliver 158 goals in 297 appearances (take note, F Torres). However, by the time the-then 26-year-old made a Mr. Big Pants move to Real Madrid, his star – even with such a prodigious goal record at Anfield – had already started to wain. Some say it had faded by the time he turned 21.

The injury years

Today, Michael Owen may be preparing for retirement with a multitude of records to his name, but the one least likely to appear in his private trophy cabinet is the title of “Most Likely To Be Found On A Treatment Table”. Like a footballing meteor lighting up the night sky, Owen’s early promise did, let’s be honest, fizzle somewhat, thanks to injuries which surely couldn’t have been helped by being thrust onto the world stage so young.

Owen’s switch to Madrid produced a solitary season of just 40 appearances with Galacticos like Zidane, Figo, Carlos and Raul, and a return of just 14 goals. But as inevitable as injuries were, part of the problem was the fit: he just missed the Premier League. Who can blame him?

Returning to England, Owen could have gone back to Liverpool: he wanted to, but the record shows that one Rafa Benitez wasn’t interested. I’ll say no more than that. Instead. Newcastle took him on, until a broken metatarsal playing for England at the end of 2005 led to a year out, and Owen was never the same player again, though 30 goals in 79 games for Newcastle is still not that bad.

After Owen parted company with Newcastle in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt and brought the striker to Manchester United. A 30-year-old striker is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at Didier Drogba. But at 30 Owen was, in Premier League years, and old man. Still, he gave Manchester United 17 strikes in 52 games, and another couple of seasons at a top club, before moving this season to Stoke for just seven appearances so far and a single goal.

No one, however, is that surprised Owen has chosen to retire at the and of this season. Injuries not withstanding, the fire that tore apart the Argentinian defence in 1998 has long since been reduced to a flickering flame.

You could argue that the 15 years since Saint-Étienne have seen diminishing returns. But let’s not quibble too much. Some things aren’t meant to last long: Jimi Hendrix only made three proper albums; The Beatles broke up less than 10 years into their recording career; and it is true that a Big Mac is over with too soon. If only for that one goal in France in 1998, we can be thankful that Michael Owen blazed. It was just a bit early, and didn’t last long.

Article originally published here. Pic credit.

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Is Everton’s Leighton Baines the footballer with the best music taste? His top albums of 2012 revealed – Tame Impala, Richard Hawley and more!

By Gerald Lynch on November 30th, 2012

Everton and England footballer Leighton Baines may have just revealed himself as the player with the best taste in music, after revealing his top albums of 2012 on the club’s website.

The defender picked Dr John’s “Locked Down” as his album of the year, saying he was impressed by The Black Key’s Dan Auerbach who had produced the album.

Baines also picked Richard Hawley’s “Standing on Sky’s Edge” as another of his favourite records of the year, rounding off his top album list with choice cuts from Jack White, Paul Weller, Lana Del Rey, Bob Dylan, The XX, Neil Young, Mark Lanegan, Grizzly Bear, Cat Power and Eugene McGuinness.

Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerisim’ is one of Everton defender Leighton Baines’s albums of 2012

Baines had particularly strong praise for “Lonerism” by rising stars Tame Impala saying that the album “builds on the psychedelic sound that Innerspeaker possessed and while still full of distortion, fuzz and effects, it is also more melodic and the songwriting is improved from Kevin Parker, whose multi-tracked vocals are very Lennon-esque.”As for debut albums, Baines went for Toy, Melody’s Echo Chamber and By The Sea, while picked out Haim, Savages and The Wicked Whispers as ones to watch in 2013.

It’s a refreshingly current and tasteful pick from Baines, whose indie taste sets him apart from the dance and hip-hop fans that make up the majority of professional footballers. Having said that, we remember a time when all footballers were obsessed with Phil Collins, so basically anything is an improvement over that.

Baines joins the slim ranks of footballers with equally good taste in music, who include retired ex-West Ham defender and Scotland star Christian Daily (who had his own band and counted Weezer as one of his favourite groups) and Graeme Le Saux, who revealed Joe Jackson’s “It’s Different For Girls” as the first record he ever bought. Pat Nevin was a big The The fan too; seems the Scots are the footballing nation with the best musical taste then!

What do you reckon of Baines choices? Does he really have the best musical taste in football? While we’re on the subject, check out Brandish’s top debut albums of the year, and our favourite singer/songwriter records of 2012 too.

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St George’s Park and the tech-savvy future of the FA’s football coaching schools

By Gerald Lynch on March 30th, 2012

While all eyes are on the 2012 Olympics as the nation’s favoured sporting occasion for this year, the summer also offers the Euro 2012 international football tournament. After a string of disappointing performances at the top-flight of football for the England senior’s squad, blame often falls at the feet of the FA, and the coaching staff, as ex-England manager Fabio Capello’s recent departure will attest to.

Looking to strengthen England’s coaching prospects from the ground up, and looking for long-term fixes rather short-term ones, the FA are building the impressive 330-acre National Football Centre (NFC) at St George’s Park, Burton-upon-Trent.

It’s a massive undertaking that encompasses building leading football training facilities (with 12 pitches, including two full-size recreations of the Wembley Stadium pitch, both outdoors and indoors) and creating two world-class hotels for accommodating players, coaching staff and eventually the public too.

“The project started around and got the green-light in November 2010. We first cut the ground here in February and we’re on target for our summer deadline. It’s gone very well so far, it’s been a smooth ride,” says the FA’s director of Digital & Information Technology, Rob Ray.

“It’s all about delivering better coaches for better football, it’s not a finishing school for elite players. This is about moulding elite coaches. It’s very much a long-term strategy.”

The improvements in coaching training will come from the implementation of advanced technology across the site. With a £100 million budget, a generous £3 million has been set aside for technology.

23 touchscreens will be installed in key training locations across the site (partners for the touchscreens have been confirmed, but have not been announced yet), while pitch-side cameras will capture training sessions from many angles, streamed instantly to locations both on and off site. Players will be outfitted with GPS modules to track their work rate, as well as biometric monitoring equipment, and coaches will have access to the same touchscreen software regularly used by the likes of Andy Gray and Gareth Southgate, with 50 terrabytes of storage set aside for video recordings of training sessions.

“We’re also expecting coaches to take a tablet to training sessions,” says Ray, hinting at the iPad being the FA’s slate of choice.

“The coaches definitely have a preference and it’s a very good device but then we see them go ‘Oops!’ and drop them. We have to look at technologies that are as robust as possible, but we have a number of iPads in-play now, and our coaches like them.”

Solid web infrastructure is also a key goal of the site:

“There’s a lot of information technology going into the whole site. BT are a key provider and key supplier of our technology here,” said Ray.

Indeed telecommunications support is vital for the site. St George’s Park will be linked with Wembley Stadium and other international sites via high-speed broadband provided by BT. This will allow for massive amounts of data to be transferred between coaches across sites (particularly useful considering the amount of pitch-side video capture expected to be done on site), as well as talks from leading international coaches across the globe via teleconferencing in one of the site’s many conference and lecture rooms.

This isn’t the implementation of technology just for the sake of bragging rights though, and Ray is being sensible about what installations will actually be beneficial to staff. “We don’t need touch everywhere,” says Ray for example, when questioned about the distribution of touchscreens across the site. Frank Lampard won’t be sitting on an Android-powered toilet, for instance.

Improving sports science literacy among the England support staff is also a major goal of the site, and advanced facilities will include a minor procedures room, a hydrotherapy pool and even a velocity-sensitive running track that can measure when a player is putting more weight and strain on one leg than the other.

“We’re aiming to reach the FIFA F-Marc standard; there are only ten facilities around the world that can claim that at the moment, and we’re going to be the eleventh,” beams Ray.

Training world class coaches is not an overnight task, though those looking for an overnight stay at St George’s Park will be well catered for.

“We have a partner in Hilton Hotels, who are providing 128 beds in the Hilton wing, and 86 beds in the Hampton wing,” says Ray.

“It’s the first time they’ve combined two different star-rated hotels on one site. We have 24 England teams, and they’ll all train here, and need accommodation as well.”

The hotels, and select areas of the site, will be open to the public, and Ray is keen to stress that it’s very much a business proposition too. As well as generating revenue from public visitors, St George’s Park is also offering the use of its facilities to travelling international teams.

“We’re close to Birmingham and Manchester, so who are our other customers? I’d say Real Madrid. Barcelona. They can be here bracing themselves for a match against Manchester City, United. Any of the European teams, or even members of other sports, will want to train here,” suggests Ray.

In fact, lots of different sports are being considered for facilities on the site:

“Tennis, badminton, netball; we’re still figuring out the colour combinations for pitch lines,” says Ray. “But this will become a great facility for many sports.”

But the focus, naturally, will remain on the England stars, both new and old, says Ray:

“Part of the vision, and Stuart Pearce (current manager of the England national under-21 team- ed.) would articulate this better than I would, is to see the England senior teams, under 21s, under 17s and the women’s teams training at the same time on site. Getting all those people together and creating a sense of being one united England team under the 24 individual banners will be greatly beneficial to players and managers alike.”

Work on St George’s Park is expected to be completed by the summer. For more information on St George’s Park, click here.

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